Scott McArdle: A rising Murdoch star

This theatre major is going places, and fast. METIOR caught up with him to steal some of his contagious passion and find out what he’s up to.

By Madura McCormack

Self-assured, he speaks in scenes, choosing words that craft a reel of images in the mind. He radiates theatre, the glint in his eyes dancing as he discusses his favourite medium. At just 22 years old, Scott McArdle is arguably Murdoch University’s fastest rising theatre star, on the verge of presenting his fifteenth show.

His passion for theatre is transfixing, this pinpoint focus probably being what has propelled him into the depth of the field so quickly. Stepping foot into Murdoch midway through 2011, by November he had founded Second Chance Theatre [SCT]. Some four short years later, McArdle has now teamed up with The Blue Room Theatre, and will set up shop at the Perth Cultural Centre.

The youngest producer to currently be working with the Perth based theatre group, McArdle’s latest play will be his longest running yet, with a three week residency at the PCC in September.

Titled ‘Between Solar Systems’, the play is a futuristic exploration of the human psyche which follows the life of Vincent, a 25 year old orphan raised alone by a computer in a spaceship after human kind rushed to leave a crippled Earth.

Set in 2050, Earth now ceases to exist after a botched United Nations plan to reverse global warming 30 years before goes awry, forcing everyone to flee the planet.

Vincent, played by Perth actor Nick Maclaine, is a perfect human, living out his routine in solitude.

“Until he sees a woman running around in the spaceship from the corner of his eye, making him question if he is alone… he starts searching for the truth, sabotaging the ship to find out what is really going on,” McArdle explains, refusing to reveal if the woman is a figment of Vincent’s imagination or if she is real.

There are a couple of twists at the end that are powerful and gripping, he says, describing the ending as the most beautiful part of the piece.

Between Solar Systems from David Cox on Vimeo.

Drafted on a red-eye flight

Relocating to Sydney earlier this year for a course with the National Institute of Dramatic Arts [NIDA], McArdle found himself in tumultuous times, with one thing going wrong after the next.

“I was feeling lonely and depressed, and suicidal,” he says, after the stress from private problems and the pressure of being away putting a strain on his personal relationships.

“I felt stuck in this womb…this ship, this emptiness… And I couldn’t crack it, because I wanted to come home. So I left.”

McArdle caught a midnight flight home to Perth and it was then that inspiration struck him. By the time the plane landed, he had written the first draft of Between Solar Systems.

He named his main character Vincent from the feelings of despair and isolation he felt during his time at NIDA, where the writer’s room was filled with pictures of the great Dutch artist Van Gogh.

“They are both characters who are sad and don’t know it, and it fit,” says McArdle, whose Van Gogh screensaver reminds him of why he wrote the script to begin with.

Between Solar Systems Source: Blue Room Theatre

Between Solar Systems                                                  Source: Blue Room Theatre

McArdle frequently draws inspiration from his personal battles, with one his previous plays, Bye. Gone. based around the year-long argument he had with his mother.

His gaze deviates once in a while as he collects his thoughts, only to return with a stream of words more powerful than the ones before. Music is his muse as well he says, with the tunes that fill his ears guiding him to a part of his life that ignites an idea for his shows.

“There is a scene [in Between Solar Systems] set on a beach. It’s about someone who went to the ocean. She’s talking about this ocean and how it will swallow everything… it is about accepting the inevitable, about walking into the ocean and lying in it and being at peace with it,” a part, McArdle says, that came to him after a friend sent him an instrumental piece called ‘Arctic’.

There is no permanence in theatre

Unlike film, which can be viewed over and over, theatre has a real rawness at its heart McArdle says, with sets being painted over soon after a show ends, without leaving a trace of its existence.

“A play you work really furiously on is gone in a week… you spend a year writing it, planning it, and it will be done. It’s sad but you get used to it… It’s happened 15 times now.”

But if there is something that remains fixed, it is the strong theatre presence at Murdoch University. To date, the school has three theatre companies, after McArdle moved Second Chance Theatre into the professional arena.

Black Martini, Murdoch Theatre Company currently helmed by Justin Crossley, and Modicum Theatre Perth are always improving he says, and have been strengthened by the recent renovation of Studio 411 on campus.

McArdle; deep in thought or half-asleep? Either way still inspiring Source: Supplied

McArdle; deep in thought or half-asleep? Either way still inspiring. Photo by: Kieran Peek

Be open

McArdle’s streak of achievements continues on, with the artist currently in the midst of writing his honours thesis at Murdoch. He is arguing a definition of a new theatre genre called ‘Dream-realism’.

His meteoric rise in the local theatre scene is likely due to his infectious thirst that is fed by a bottomless oasis of ideas, and supported by the air of humble sophistication that surrounds him. And his advice for other aspiring playwrights is reflective of this demeanour.

“Be open,” he says, “Be open to criticism. As much as you are praised, be open to change.”

“Be ambitious. Don’t settle, and don’t be afraid to fail tremendously.”

Between Solar Systems is playing at The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, from September 8-26 at 7pm.

Check out Second Chance Theatre’s Pozible Campaign here to give them a hand.

Tickets cost $20 for students and can be booked at blueroom.org.au.

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